Last week I went to a writing group that I found on Meetup. The group is called Science Fiction and Fantasy Writing Group and, while some people are writing in the speculative genre, it is open to any writer. The group was welcoming and we talked about our current projects. Most people are participating in National Novel Writing Month. I have great admiration for writers who can give themselves a one month deadline. Even if they get half way there, they’re much farther along trying that not starting at all.
One thing that surprised me was everyone had a laptop. A woman remarked on my spiral notebook, I’ve never see that brand of laptop before. Indeed, it’s a limited edition.
A main reason they type is for the word count. Paper, as of yet, cannot count your words. Though there are digital pens, which transfer what you write onto the computer. Moleskine’s Livescribe Notebook may be the most seamless.
Another reason they type is because their hands hurt if they write for a while. That’s how unaccustomed some writers are to physically writing. We’re the age of digital writers.
I certainly felt like an antique with my black ink and tree pulp. But a few were quick to assure me that writing by hand was still done. They mentioned a published author who writes the first draft by hand and then gives it to her assistant to type. So is writing a novel by hand a privilege?
For word count, since I write almost everything by hand (I’ll directly type assignments that are about 500 words or fewer), I have a good gauge of how my written pages translate to typed pages. For example, ten written single sided pages (when I say page, I always mean single sided) is about four to five double spaced typed pages, around 2,000 words. Of course this varies depending on your handwriting.
If you use a laptop, your battery rules your life. If your battery is dead, you have to find an outlet and sit next to it. What if there’s not outlet, you write on your phone? While phones keep getting bigger, it still sounds uncomfortable.
I really like the smell of paper and pen. Yes, you can say I’m killing trees. But I plan on publishing a novel, so I’m not worried about a handful of notebooks because then I’ll be killing a lot more trees.
I’m more productive when I’m not on my computer. I’m doing a lot of medicine and biology research for my book, so of course I use the internet for that. I need to set aside time for research because reading articles can open up an abyss of fascinating web pages to read. I also get sidetracked with videos, emails, and oh yeah I need to do my FAFSA.
I already spend a lot of time in front of the computer because of my job, my school, and my entertainment. I welcome time to give my eyes a break. I think an underused tool for typing is dictation, which I love because my hands don’t have to work, and I’m reading my work out loud so I can catch mistakes by ear. As with any tool, there’s a learning curve to using it.
Which do you prefer, typing or handwriting?